University High’s girls soccer team used some late game magic for the second consecutive game to earn a berth in the Division III state championship game.
Madison Catalanotto’s goal in the 15th minute of overtime proved to be the game-winner as the Cubs held off Academy of Sacred Heart 2-1 at Boss Field/Gill Stadium.
The tiebreaking score came on U-High’s best look at the goal all game. From right of the goal, Catalanotto made the most of the opportunity after a set-up pass from Kirby Miller.
“I heard my coach (Melissa Ramsey) yell to Kirby. She said, ‘Cat’s wide open,” Catalanotto said. “Kirby saw it, sent it right to me and it was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.”
Second-seeded U-High (22-1-3) advances to its first state title game since 1998, when it won its only championship. The Cubs will play No. 8 Pope John Paul for the title on Thursday at Tad Gormley Stadium.
Sacred Heart ends its season at 14-5-4.
“This means so much. I don’t know if I can put it into words,” Ramsey said. “It’s the most amazing feeling for these girls who have worked so hard.”
The game was scoreless for 62 minutes before U-High took the lead off of a corner kick. Before the kick there was confusion as officials decided whether or not Mary Nader would be allowed to substitute in for the Cubs.
Nader did come in, and promptly scored the game’s first goal. Olivia Labarre lifted the corner kick to the front of the goal where Nader outmuscled the Sacred Heart defense to put the ball into the net.
The goal nearly held up, but Sacred Heart came back with a tying goal in the 76th minute. Caroline Licciardi’s shot to the right side of the net looked like it would be saved by U-High goalkeeper Elizabeth Bankston.
Instead, as Bankston dove to her left for the stop, the ball took an unexpected hop over Bankston and into the net.
Sacred Heart coach Tooraj Badie said he thought the first team to blink would lose. Instead, both teams blinked in regulation.
“We gave up a corner kick goal that shouldn’t have been a goal because we played poor defensively,” Badie said. “They gave up a goal that shouldn’t have been a goal. It should have gone into overtime 0-0.”
For the game, Sacred Heart got off 14 shots to U-High’s 10. ASH goalkeeper Emily Hardie had one save while Bankhead finished with six.
Sacred Heart’s goal was the first allowed by U-High since Dec. 6 when it tied Lakeshore 1-1.
“I didn’t know how we were going to react because we hadn’t been scored on in a really long time,” Ramsey said.
“I didn’t know if we’d rise up to the occasion, but we just did.”